Well I made it. Yesterday afternoon I arrived. The adventures started on Thursday, August 2 when I left home at 10:00 in the morning to catch the train in Shelby, Montana. Due to the heat, the train which was supposed to arrive in Shelby by 5:20 pm, only arrived at around 9:30. So we spent 7 hrs finding out that there is not much to do in Shelby! When the train did at last pull up it was cold and windy and rainy, so I said goodbye quickly and tried to board before I got too damp. I anticipated meeting one of my fellow volunteers on the train (she had been riding since Wisconsin) but it was too dark to see much so I sat in my seat and tried to dry off and get comfortable. At this point my train trip, which I had intended to be very scenic and leisurely, took a turn for the worse. I had been looking forward to the trip through Glacier National Park, but because it was dark I knew I would be unable to see anything and comforted myself with the thought that I would enjoy the scenery as we traveled along the Columbia River Gorge the next day. Unfortunately this was not to be, soon after I got on the train they announced that the tracks were out between Spokane and Pasco, Washington and at 5:00 am we would be disembarking to take a bus from Spokane to Portland. So early in the morning I gathered my stuff, reluctantly left my comfy seat with its wealth of legroom, found Melissa (fellow volunteer) and squished myself into a small seat on a bus for the 6 hr ride to Portland. Lucky for the two of us, another passenger lent us her phone and we were able to contact our hosts in Portland to let them know that we would be late getting in. The bus let us off at the train station in Portland and we made our way to the international airport via the light rail transit system – quite an interesting ride with all of our heavy baggage. At last we settled comfortably into some seats at the airport and waited for the arrival of 3 other volunteers. We were all picked up by our host for the weekend, Gary, and taken to the home of him and his wife Lynn. In total 10 of us arrived for orientation weekend. The weekend was spent relaxing and getting to know our group. We hiked and swam and dipped our toes into the ocean. We also laughed and shared our stories and talked, and talked, and talked.
Monday morning found us headed for the airport for the long trip over here. Our flights began with a short hop from Portland to Los Angeles. After navigating the chaos of the LA airport we boarded our flight headed to Singapore via Tokyo. I found myself seated with a family of five who was traveling to Tokyo to teach school at a Christian school for missionary kids. It was very odd to get on a plane and arrive 10 hrs later in Tokyo with the sun just starting to set. I was now a day older without having lived it. Not very many people in our group of eleven had got much sleep, myself included. The last two hrs of that flight I spent wishing I could be as fast asleep as the 15 year old kid sitting next to me who I had to fend off multiple times with my elbow because he thought I would be a much more comfortable pillow. We had to disembark in Tokyo and endure a security checkpoint for the 3rd time during the trip and when we were back at our gate, they announced the flight would be delayed for 2 hrs. So what else was there to do but get comfortable and sleep…
After finally reboarding our plane, we traveled the last 7.5 hrs to Singapore. Here we had a bit of time to clean up, get some food and a bit more sleep. After one last trip through security – truly my bags have been well x-rayed – we boarded our last flight. Four hours later we were grateful to be welcomed to our new home by a large turnout of volunteers from the clinic.
It is a bit surreal to finally be here, but in some ways it feels very familiar, not that different from my memories of stepping off the plane in Bolivia. It was fantastic to eat a normal meal, cool off with a shower, and sleep for a full 8 hrs. Hopefully my body catches up from the jet lag soon and settles into a normal routine.